CROPPER, CURTIS HENRY
Name: Curtis Henry Cropper Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy Reserves Unit: Fighter Squadron 151, USS CORAL SEA (CVA 43) Date of Birth: 02 August 1043 Home City of Record: Paso Robles CA Date of Loss: 05 April 1970 Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 180857N 1075859E (ZF156091) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 5 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B Refno: 1584 Other Personnel in Incident: Lt Tom Terrill, rescued.
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 April 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
SYNOPSIS: The USS CORAL SEA participated in combat action against the Communists as early as August 1964. Aircraft from her squadrons flew in the first U.S. Navy strikes in the Rolling Thunder Program against targets in North Vietnam in early 1965. The next year, reconnaissance aircraft from her decks returned with the first photography of Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) sites in North Vietnam. The A1 Skyraider fighter aircraft was retired from the USS CORAL SEA in 1968. The CORAL SEA participated in Operation Eagle Pull in 1975, evacuating American personnel from beleaguered Saigon, and remained on station to assist the crew of the MAYAGUEZ, which was captured by Cambodian forces in 1975. The attack carriers USS CORAL SEA, USS HANCOCK and USS RANGER formed Task Force 77, the carrier striking force of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific.
LT Curtis Cropper was a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) assigned to Fighter Squadron 151 onboard the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA. On april 5, 1970, he launched with his pilot, LT. Tom Terrill, in their F4B Phantom fighter/bomber on a combat mission into North Vietnam.
Following the mission, Terrill and Cropper were returning to ship when their aircraft suddenly caught fire and they were forced to eject. The forces of the ejection, combined with the high speed, stunned them both. LT Terrill was recovered alive in the water, but LT Cropper was unconscious when he hit the water, and was unable to inflate his life jacket and raft or to detach himself from his parachute. The parachute disappeared from the surface of the water in no more than a minute's time. Search efforts did not locate LT Cropper. He was listed as Reported Dead. Because no remains were found, LT Cropper is also listed as Body Not Recovered, and his name is maintained among the rolls of the missing. The incident is not considered to be battle-related.
About fifty in every 1000 Americans lost in the Vietnam war were either captured, missing, or unaccounted for. 591 of these were returned at the end of the war, lucky releasees who came home alive. A number, like LT Cropper, will never come home. The majority of those "MIAs" could be accounted for by the Vietnamese by return of remains known to be held in Vietnam, transfer of information, or access to crash or loss sites.
But well over half the men maintained on missing were lost under suspicious circumstances. Many were alive and describing to would-be rescuers the rapid advance of the enemy. Some were photographed or wrote home from prisoner of war camps, only to disappear.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Many officials now believe that hundreds of these men are still alive today, waiting for their country to come for them. While LT Cropper may not be among them, someone's father, son or brother is. It's time we brought our men home.